Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Goodbye crunchy Moms

I consider myself pretty progressive (crunchy). Especially about childbirth. Here's a feeling of where I stand:

Crunchy: Had professional midwifes as providers
Not: Would never consider a home birth. You can take your chances if you like, chances are good everything will turn out fine. I want to be in the hospital, just in case.

Crunchy: Did my best for both babies to have a completely natural birth. No epidurals for me.
Not: Gave in after 40 hours of contractions for some short acting pain relief (fentanyl).

Crunchy: Tried real hard to do all cloth diapers for the first kid.
Not: Agreed we couldn't accomplish it for the second. We're on disposables now.

Crunchy: Agree with the idea of having a birth center in town, located very close to the hospital. Would consider having a birth in a birth center if I lived in a different town.
Not: I am infuriated by the owner/ sole midwife of the birth center's attitude toward medicine. She brags on how little she knows about traditional medical science (Who cares what oxygen sats are, probably another one of those hospital-drug-company-complex-invented INTERVENTIONS!!). I would NEVER go to her as a provider.

Crunchy: Did my best to breast-feed both kids.
Not: Didn't make it 100%. Was convinced I needed to supplement with formula despite my friends' pleadings to only feed breast milk and endure a suffering child for the 72 hours it would take for more milk to come in.

Crunchy: Attended a home birth/ alternative birth/ natural birth/ support group for about two years.
Not: Left because of the complete wackaloonery and woo. They think whatever is traditional (whether it works or not) must be eschewed. (Question asked to the group: what do I do about my varicose veins? My answer: Compression hose! Another answer: Oh, no! Just boil hay and then drink the water from it.)

Crunchy: Did not circumcise my son.

And now, I am ready to completely leave the progressive birth "crowd" over this:

Circumcision kills

It was posted all over Facebook among the crunchy Moms. I have to admit, my library doesn't carry this journal (strange, its so common!!) so I haven't read it fully. I'm guessing whats going on here... our old friend "correlation implies causation" tied together with flat-out selling this "evidence" as medicine (but its PUBLISHED! in a JOURNAL!!!). Never mind the inflammatory language ..."because parents ignorantly said 'Yes,' or lacked the courage to say 'No.'" and "And called the deaths 'an unrecognized sacrifice of innocents'."

Does anyone know more about this journal (is it even peer- reviewed? is it a sociology journal? or poetry?)

Please save me from this high blood pressure!!!

To top it off, one of the moms who posted it- clearly opposed to cosmetic, unnecessary surgeries in humans that cannot give their consent- asked to Facebook when she should have her daughter's ears pierced... at 2 months old or wait until 6 months old...

I quit you, crunchy Moms.

addendum: have read the article. high crap with a few nuggets of potential truth.


  1. Email en route with article attached.

    Summary: no actual data. Some guesses that may even be reasonable, a bunch of anecdotes... but zero data.

    [Caveat/disclaimer if needed: circumcision seems barbaric to me, and neither I nor my two sons were circumcised. But that wouldn't stop me from being interested in evidence that the procedure might be beneficial :)]

  2. Thanks for the article! It will be fodder for my classes.

    For the record, Hub and I read a lot of literature to determine whether circumcision was truly preventative or not. What we got was rather equivocal. We then read some of the ethics literature, and decided that without good evidence for effective disease prevention, we couldn't do something to our son that might be only cosmetic without his informed consent. Our decision was never really about the risks of the surgery.

  3. When we are ready for children, I truly hope we have a daughter. Not that I wouldn't love a son, but I just don't have the stamina to face all the anti-circumcision OMG GENITAL MUTILATION fanatics out there. We are both Jewish, so of course we would opt to circumcise. But, like you pointed out, so much criticism comes from very hypocritical women.

  4. I am from Europe, where circumcision is very uncommon (as far as I know, only Jewish and Muslim people in Europe circumcise their boys). It never occurred to me to circumcise, but I see it's a big deal here in the US; many grown women claim never to have seen an uncircumcised penis or, if they did, claim that they are ugly, which is ridiculous. The widespread circumcision in the US was pushed on people around the turn of the 20th century in an attempt to prevent boys from masturbating -- yeah, I bet that worked. Neither one of my boys is circumcised because I really see no reason to do it and, yes, it is mutilation. The foreskin has a well-defined purpose.

  5. The guy's site looks... eh... not terribly real. It's like an exaggerated NOW site, but for men. And I can't find the "study" anywhere else but there. Not terribly convincing to anyone but the Intactivists.

    I am right there with you re: much of the G'bye Crunchies. I, too, am pretty tired of the woo. It's exhausting swimming against the tide sometimes. I've recently left homebirth midwifery to be a full-time Monitrice-Doula, helping hospital birthing women stay home in early-mid-labor so they can have a more autonomous hospital birth. I should have been a CNM.

    Anyway, love your post. Really. Really.

  6. I am from Europa as well, and I can second Anonymous: the only people who circumcise do that from a religious perspective. Over here it is Extremely uncommon to circumcise if not for those religions. Extremely! I do not even know of why you should circumcise (if not for religion), and neither do all me female friends who are going to or just gave birth. Preventative of what? All the cute little baby boys I have recently visited were not circumcised but one, born Jewish. So shouldn't that sort of point towards that if it was that bad for health not to do so, the population of Europe would somehow be affected compared to the USA population?

  7. I'm not a scientist, but I could tell the article was bunk from the language. "Sacrifice of innocents?" Give me a break. There are so many better ways to argue circumcision is unnecessary than to make outrageous claims.

  8. Will comment now, cite later.
    All, there are some relatively valid studies that show that circumcised males have a lower risk of urinary tract infections (intact- very, very low; circumscised- extremely low). And it makes sense especially if males dont retract the foreskin and clean themselves as well (think of how well they clean the dishes- ba dum, cha!). There was a recent large study in african males that circumcision as adults lowered their risk for contracting AIDS from women (more receptors in the forsekin presumably). However, our reading of that literature still led us to buck the American culture and leave our son intact.

  9. I move in "crunchy" circles and have had a much different experience than you. There are many of us who believe there is a real balance between all things crunchy and the realities of life. Take me, for example. I was planning a homebirth and was seeing an OB at the same time. My midwife caught my developing pre-eclampsia, not my OB. My miwdife sent me to the hospital, where my OB took care of things. It was a great balance.

    The crunchy world is full of sensible, educated, realistic people. I'm sorry you were running with a bad crowd.

    As as far as circumcision goes, do you know that the best way of preventing AIDS is? A condom. Using a study carried out in Africa to justify circumcision is the U.S. is complete folly considering the differences in social and environmental factors. Having studied evolutionary medicine for eight years and taught it for five, my theory is this: nature does nothing needlessly. If a foreskin wasn't needed, then it wouldn't be there. It's not an evolutionary remnant. It serves a real, functioning purpose. Removing my labia might reduce my risk of certain diseases, but it seems silly to do that (especially to an infant girl), now doesn't it?

  10. I think partly of the "circumcision has a change of protecting from getting HIV" has been linked to the fact that the foreskin (if intact) provides with a slightly more humid/mucosal layer. When the foreskin is removed, the skin that is now exposed 24/7 will "harden" a bit....

    Also, as you said, you need to wash differently if the is foreskin or not, since there are more skin than if it's all cut away.

    I ended up with a huge debate about this, since I'm European lving in US where it's so common to curcumcise - although, as previous people have mentioned - none apart from the Jewish and Muslim boys where I grew up was ever curcumsized. And, afaik, several of the Muslim boys were not if their parents weren't all that religious.

    As for the crunchy moms, I'm not a mom but would probably end up like you - moving away once the true crazie show themselves. I just like information and choice?!

  11. Wendy, Navelgazing,

    It might inform the discussion to mention that in my state there are two levels of certified midwives: the nurse midwife and the practical midwife. I had Nurse midwives at both of my children's births and I was very impressed with their competence. Nurse midwives must be also RNs and as far as I am aware, the CNM training is equivalent to a masters' degree. The practical midwives don't need a degree of any sort, but they need a reasonable amount of practical experience. What is important to note is that (again, to my awareness) all nurse midwives must practice under OBs and therefore must deliver in the hospital. And the practical midwives are not allowed to deliver in the hospital (unless under the supervision of an OB, which seems very very difficult for them to get). So if you want a birth center or home birth you are most likely going to have a less EDUCATED midwife. Careful there folks... I did NOT say better. I did not say more experienced (although volume typically favors the CNMs in this area). I simply mean CNMs have had more school to reach their certification.

  12. I one of those pseudo-crunchy moms too. Glad I only had girls, since I didn't even want to deal with this kind of mumbo jumbo. *eyeroll*

  13. Firstly, UTIs are more common in women than men. It's not a reason to circ. Infections are treated first with antibiotics, not amputation and certainly not as a prophylactic.

    Secondly, cleaning under the foreskin takes about three seconds. Pull back and rinse with water. Done. Trust me, intact men and boys don't need much encouragement to retract their foreskin in the shower.

    Thirdly, a society that cuts baby boys to make them resemble a sexually ready adult while simultaneously demanding that woman's genitals resemble those of a little girl is a society that has something pretty wrong with it.

  14. Hmmm... interesting point, but... in my case, my certified midwife, who "only" had a master's degree in sociology, caught my pre-e while my OB, with all of his years of education, missed it. When I called him and told him I felt like I had the flu, he told me he see me in a week. When I called my "less educated" midwife, she saw me right away and got me the help I needed. If I had followed my OB's advice, I wouldn't be here today. So in this case, more education does not equal better care, nor does more education equal more effective care.

    Of course, I understand that you aren't trying to connect more education to better care. I think my story illustrates the best case scenario. I had truly excellent care with my very knowledgeable and highly trained certified midwife and when things went downhill, my OB stepped in and handled my care. I would do it the same way with my next child.

  15. I hear ya, Wendy. I always wonder how to weight education vs. experience in, well, everything!
    In this case I would propose that many midwives, especially established ones, have more experience attending LOW INTERVENTION births than some OBs, especially new ones.

    But I would not be easily convinced that a less-educated PLUS relatively-inexperienced midwife would not provide as good of care consistently than if she had more education or more experience.

  16. OK, I need to just elaborate on something relative to the folks from Europe. In Britain a decent majority of boys get circumcised for public health reasons, and definitely not because of any religious affiliation (since our primary religion is tea and chocolate biscuits anyhow). I apologize, but I do take offense from the commenter who said the practice is barbaric. I myself am a happily-circumcised, married WASP; I would not consider myself mutilated by any stretch of the imagination - and I know for a fact my wife doesn't either.

    There are no downsides to male circumcision, and several reasonable public health studies showing a lower risk of UTIs and other infections. I have never had a UTI, but that's just anecdotal.

    In other words, at least from my perspective, it's all ups and no downs (insert joke of choice here). If I am lucky enough to have a son, he will be circumcised the same way I was.

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. I am the Anonymous from above, responding to Brit prof. Not to say that GB isn't in Europe, but the widespread practice of circumcision did start in order to prevent boys from "the sinful act" of masturbating as well as to decrease the chance of contracting syphilis in Victorian times, so I am not surprised that it holds strong in GB and the US. The fact that it is now claimed to have some marginal health benefits (marginal for the developed world, that is) does not change the fact that (a) it started when it did and for the reasons it did, and (b) once something is common practice, it takes a while to change. [Btw, as you can easily find by googling, the American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends routine circumcision as the health benefits are indeed so marginal that they do not warrant cutting all boys indiscriminantly.] I still stand by the fact that in continental Europe circumcision is largely limited to Jewish and Muslim populations. I personally would never circumcise my sons as the foreskin is there for a reason. As Wendy said above, Nature does not do things needlessly.